These freezing temps have frozen my story

It has been cold, y’all. In the last couple days, we’ve been pushing negative forty degrees fahrenheit. In fact, it was minus thirty-three when I received an emergency alert around ten-thirty last night.

Emergency Alert: Due to extreme temps Consumers asks everyone to lower their heat to 65 or less through Fri

All I could see was the potential for disaster. We left our thermostat set to 72 all night. Still, we woke up today to a frozen hot water pipe in the kitchen and a frozen cold water pipe to one of the bathroom sinks. Coincidentally, the drain for that bathroom sink was already frozen. I can’t help but wonder how many people who did turn their thermostats down woke up to even worse problems than ours.

When that alert came in, and it was negative thirty-three degrees, I took a photo of one of our living room windows. It was so cold outside that we had ice forming on the inside of our windows.

It was so cold outside, our windows were icing up on the inside.

What’s the big deal? It’s winter. You live in Michigan.

And all of this is so very true. Though I won’t pretend that I am anywhere near used to weather like this, but who is? But, I survived that cold January night in 1985 Chicago. Granted, I was only five. And, it’s Thursday, now. The worst of it is behind us.

Still, I’m looking out my window at this expanse of snow, and I can still feel the bitter cold of the whopping six degrees we’ve made it to. It makes it hard to imagine a hot summer day dripping with humidity from a wild thunderstorm.

Summer romance blossoms

Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s the fresh air. Summer is just a beautiful setting for a blooming romance to begin. That’s what’s happening in Once Upon a Time in Iowa. Well, that’s what’s supposed to be happening.

I won’t say that I’m not writing. I’ve gotten some writing done. I even managed to muster up a scene where Mary Cardelia fainted, possibly from the heat. However, it’s entirely possible it was really a swoon, in which case it could have happened in the dead of winter. That was all before this insane temperature drop.

Brain freeze

I’m trying to remember warmer times. I’m trying to imagine the smell of the corn sweating in the fields. I’m trying to recall the way the humidity sticks to you as the drenched land is rapidly baked dry by the sun’s unrelenting rays. The heat of those same rays beating down on my own skin, heating me up and causing me to sweat. A sweat that cannot dry and cool me off because the humid air has no room for any more moisture, completely defeating the purpose of sweat.

My mind keeps on wandering to the bitter cold. The subfreezing temperatures that creep into your bones. The snow and ice and frozen water pipes. The way the ice still creeps up the window. The sleeping trees and blanket of snow that covers everything. The complete lack of green. The way the sunshine seems so dim and the brightness comes from the white starkness. My brain feels cold. My hands feel cold. My coffee is getting cold far too quickly.

Poor Mary could use some of this cold

Jesse, the very cause of the possible swoon, set Mary down gently in a chair in the middle of the kitchen. The kitchen where the entire family has gathered. She’s embarrassed, and possibly a little confused. Momma’s making such a fuss over her. She’d give just about anything for this scene to be over.


Here, it’s cold and white. I’d call it uninspiring, but that’s not entirely true. It’s not inspiring me to work on a summer romance. Instead, it’s got me thinking about the long hard winter that’s still nearly a decade away. It’s got me thinking what it may have been like for Mary and for Jesse. Would Jesse have found himself stranded somewhere along the shutdown railroad? Would he have made it home? Grandpa Melvin was just a baby, then.

The Mary and Jesse in my story will never make it to that winter if they don’t finish falling in love. They sit, frozen in time. As frozen as the land around me. Frozen in a heat I can’t seem to imagine. All I can seem to manage is hoping the hot kitchen where I left everyone gathered will begin to thaw it out from the inside.

What do you do to transport yourself into the setting of your story when your writing setting is everything contradictory?

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